November 11-22 a team of SOI alumni are attending COP19 in Warsaw, Poland.
Charlie Nakashuk (Arctic 2008), Kristine O’Rielly (Arctic 2013), Brenna Owen (Arctic 2008), Gerrit Wesselink (Arctic 2013) and Andrew Wong (Arctic 2010) are attending the UN Climate Change Conference and contributing a youth voice to the discussions around climate change and their recommendations for a sustainable future.
Here is the latest post by SOI Arctic 2013 alumni Caitlin Jakobsen, based on her experience writing the SOI Alumni Delegation’s policy paper and how her recent expedition to the Arctic continues to inspire her work.
by Caitlin Jakobsen
Most seventeen year olds aren’t itching to jump into politics. In fact, I know some seventeen year olds who know little more than the name of Canada’s Prime Minister. But about a year ago, while studying history, I started wondering if being in politics might be able to change the world more than I had given it credit for.
After I became an Alumni of Students on Ice this summer, I found my Arctic experience playing like a movie screen at the forefront of my brain. Whether it was the conversations I had, the people I met, or the places I saw, I felt I needed to do something with what I was given. I’ll be honest: I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I joined my first Skype meeting with the Students on Ice Alumni Delegation. All I can say for sure was that the fit was practically immediate. While meeting with other Alumni from SOI, I suddenly realized that the passion I had for the poles didn’t have to be confined sheer memories. I could use the power of politics, specifically the policy paper, to help bring the poles message to the COP19 Conference.
However, when I said, “Okay, Put me on the policy writing team!” I was secretly harboring this unease of writing in a format I had never previously attempted, as well as working alongside university students who had more experience with paper writing than me. But I was willing (and crazy) enough to try.
The first thing my fellow Alumni warned me about was the power of the citation. “Whatever you say, you have to back up. We need to make sure we’re credible.”
Then of course, they gave me the not-so-secret secret to writing something credible: “Read climate assessment reports. Read this. Look into that. Look for something we haven’t found. Look at the Rio + 20 Recommendation paper. Really, just look everywhere.”
It was about 3 hours after working on the paper for the second night in a row that the true challenge of all the work started to sink in. Late at night with the buzzing of my computer screen giving me a headache, whilst trying to wade through carefully constructed politically correct language, I was beginning to struggle find the most compelling content. Then of course, I still had to make all the little pieces fit together. I kept thinking that the leaders that end up reading this should never have the chance to say, “Aw. A student wrote this, clearly.”
But just before I slammed my laptop shut in sheer frustration, I opened another report, and feasted my eyes on not words, but a centre piece picture. Like a flashback, I looked at the picture of a toppling ice berg fronting a report, and I was no longer at my computer. I was in a zodiac, reaching out to touch the glistening stuff as it creaked and groaned over the soft growling of the motor. The sound of our friend’s throat singing filled my mind, and the laughter from a long forgotten joke lingered in my ears. I shook my head, cleared my mind, and instead of throwing in the towel, returned silently to my work.
Ultimately as a seventeen year old I could not physically attend COP19. But the Policy paper that I have helped write will help influence the same politics which have changed our world, time and time again. And after getting over the initial hump of the citation hunt, I started to realize how much I personally liked writing the paper. I like to think that when my peers read this, whether they are part of my Delegation, part of the greater Students on Ice team, or the peers I sit next to in class, that they will think,
“Aw. Caitlin helped write this, clearly.”